US DTH operator DirecTV has launched a remote control application for the iOS operating system. Currently optimized for the iPad's screen size, aspect ratio and resolution, the iOS implementation allows subscribers to use their device for channel change, EPG navigation, and DVR scheduling. It is not yet clear whether the application will be extended to other mobile operating systems, such as Android, Windows Phone 7 or WebOS, or whether the implementation will be adapted for other iOS devices, such as the iPhone or iPod. Remote control functionality is enabled for DirecTV HD DVR models HR20, HR21, HR24, H21, H23, and H24.
Enabling remote control functionality has less to do with improving the remote experience per se, and much more to do with bringing an additional screen within reach of the operator. In order to allow a video-enabled, IP device to act as a remote control, operators must code a dedicated application for the device. The user interface (UI) that is a part of the application, and that is optimized for the device itself, can permit the operator to generate revenue in several ways.
First, the UI can serve as a platform for addressable advertising. Because the EPG is shuttled from the primary TV set to the device, and because the EPG itself is delivered as a unique IP stream to the user, there is an opportunity to incorporate user-addressed advertising within appropriate areas of the EPG UI, without interrupting video being played back on the TV set. Second, the personalized nature of the EPG is well-suited to content recommendation, which can simplify content selection and drive views. This recommendation can further be monetised by charging content providers for preferential positioning in recommended search.
More generally, remote applications can be part of operator strategies to assert control over devices which have yet to be provisioned with video, or to increase the stickiness of devices which already occupy a place within a multiscreen ecosystem. In the US in 2010, of the 598m installed connectable devices, only 44m of these were actively addressed by pay-TV operators and over-the-top content providers. Device-optimized applications are a means to extend reach, and protect the precious few devices that an operator does address.
In practice, remote applications have typically followed the launch of a multiscreen service, instead of being used to shoehorn devices prior a multiscreen deployment. Of the 20 major pay-TV operators offering multiscreen today, Comcast, Verizon, DISH Network and DirecTV alone have launched full-fledged remote control applications.
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